National Post (Latest Edition)
Canadian radio station key to Motown’s success
Re: The Big 50, Jan. 12. Your excellent article on the success of Motown Records left out one very important Canadian component: radio station CKLW Windsor.
At a time when most pop radio stations either had mostly white or all-black playlists, CKLW sought to combine both. Because of its spot on the AM radio dial — 800, a clear channel which after nightfall could be heard throughout most of eastern North America, CKLW (a.k.a. the Big Eight) became one of the most influential radio stations. Its program director, Rosalie Tremblay of Leamington, Ont., had the unique foresight to play Motown records on CKLW when few other radio stations outside of the U.S. black ghettoes did, and that is how a very large general public from New York to New Orleans first heard about the many Motown groups, from The Temptations to Marvin Gaye to Stevie Wonder to Martha Reeves, and made them famous. Ms. Tremblay thus became one of the major forces shaping popular music throughout the 1960s and 1970s.
The decline of Motown Records began when Canadian content regulations took effect in the late 1970s, preventing CKLW from playing the records of so many Motown and other Detroit black artists. CKLW subsequently lost much of its black and “hip” U.S.-white audience and soon changed its format to talk radio, mostly about local southwest Ontario news; a format which persists today.
Motown subsequently lost its sound window to the world.